Yesterday I had the pleasure of being involved in a little virtual roundtable event titled “The Future of Education is here, Take learning and teaching to the next level” sponsored by Logitech.
The event focused on education, the changes brought about by Covid19 and the future of using digital tools within education. I found the discussion quite interesting particularly given I was representing an independent school while others involved represented universities, business schools and also Logitech, thereby providing a reasonable diverse range of participants.
My main takeaways from the event were:
Culture was mentioned on a number of occasions including by myself. The culture in educational institutions, particularly in relation to technology, changed over the lockdown period and into the new academic year. There was more sharing and collaboration both within schools, colleges, etc but also between them as we all sought to find solutions to the myriad of challenges presented to us through lockdown and then in a hybrid teaching environment. There was more positivity and agility, with greater willingness to try new things where maybe previously some minor issues would have been identified as justification for not trying something new.
It is important as things progress, and maybe as things move towards a greater degree of normality, whatever that may be, that we try to retain this culture of positivity, of agility, of trying new things, being brave and of sharing what works and what doesn’t.
Web cam culture
This is related to the wider organisational culture issue above and was something I hadn’t given much thought to however something we very much need to consider. What is the culture in the digital space? Do our students turn their cameras on or leave them off? Do staff meet face to face or, even now where things are largely back on-site, are meetings more or less carried out from offices, with interactions online only, even where offices may only be a short distance apart? What are the implications of this growth in web conferencing and the corresponding reduction in face to face meetings, or even in the occasional corridor interaction enroute to meetings? There are lots of human issues which have or may arise as the result of covid19 and the sudden growth in work or learn from home.
Discussion regarding digital divides initially focussed on device access with universities in particular referencing the difficulties with students accessing from different devices ranging from laptops or tablets to students simply using their phones. Those students with limited or no access to a device which could be used for accessing learning content were also discussed. From here though, the discussion broadened to other divides such as access to Wi-Fi or available bandwidth, other users wishing to use devices, confidence and skill in using digital platforms, teacher pedagogy in relation to digital tool use, etc. It was clear that digital divides are a significant problem, one with many different interrelated layers.
Privacy and Security
Unintended consequences were mentioned early on in discussions. Covid19 had educators rushing to find the best solutions to continue the learning of their students outside the classroom with IT teams rushing to support educators as best they could. As such it is likely some decisions reached in the interests of continuing learning may not have given sufficient consideration to security and/or privacy. We now need to start unpicking these decisions and the potential implications. We need to consider the platforms we are using, how they are be used, how they are configured and how this all relates to privacy and security of student and staff data.
One thing was clear in the discussion, that it isn’t just a case of returning back to the way schools, colleges and universities were in Jan 2020. Equally its not a case of all change. The reality is that the way things were had its advantages and disadvantages the same as the new normal which was adopted during lockdown. It isn’t a case of either or. It is a case of finding a “new balance”; a phrase one of the attendees at the roundtable event used which I think sums up the situation. Each organisation needs to revisit its aims and establish the new balance which it feels is most appropriate for its own students, staff and community.